The finding of nine fossilized teeth by an Ethiopian-Japanese team of researchers will throw new light on evolution as these teeth happen to belong to a new species, according to a new study appearing in the latest issue of the journal Nature.
Researchers have named the new species as Chororapithecus abyssinicus and estimate that the fossils are at least 10 million years old. This species could also be directly related to African great apes, which still roam the jungles on the Dark Continent.
Scientists have believed that humans and gorillas originated from a common ancestor who was alive some eight million years ago. If the new finding is substantiated, then this theory will have to be revised. The nine fossilized teeth were found in Afar in Ethiopia.
Researchers say that intensive analysis on the teeth show similarities between them and the teeth of gorillas. The teeth are eight molars and a canine and researchers said they are practically similar to the ones found in gorillas.
"It's a subtle distinction, but we've compared it with everything we could think of," said co-researcher Dr Suwa from the University of Tokyo. "And it does show some telling signs of gorilla-like molar structure. If it's not a gorilla relative, then it's something very similar to what an early gorilla must have looked like."
He added that the finding meant "that Africa was the place of origin of both humans and modern African apes."